Sahara Sounds

It seems appropriate that “Mustt Mustt” makes not one, not two, but three appearances on Kiran Ahluwalia’s new record. After all, it was the song that brought the Indo-Canadian musician and the legendary Tuareg band Tinariwen together in the first place.

  • Jan. 25, 2011 1:00 p.m.
Sahara Sounds

Kiran Ahluwalia wallows in desert rhthyms

It seems appropriate that “Mustt Mustt” makes not one, not two, but three appearances on Kiran Ahluwalia’s new record. After all, it was the song that brought the Indo-Canadian musician and the legendary Tuareg band Tinariwen together in the first place.

“’Mustt Mustt’ is a classic song from the Muslim culture of Pakistan,” explains Ahluwalia, who will be performing in Victoria on Feb. 2. “I wanted to do it specifically with Tinariwen because I wanted to interpret it with Muslims from Africa.”

So the Juno-winning Ahluwalia — known for her performances and arrangements of Punjabi folk songs and ghazals, an ancient form of Persian poetry — and her band met up with Tinariwen, who hail from the Sahara desert in northern Mali, in Paris for a recording session.

“From the very moment that I met them, it was as if I was meeting my cousins and my relatives who had been behind a wall and we hadn’t been allowed to be together — and yet we had always been connected,” she recalls. “It was very inexplicable, but I felt as if either they were Indian or I was African. I felt that we were from the same community.”

The collaboration didn’t stop with that magical session in France; members of Tinariwen travelled to Toronto and New York City — where Ahluwalia now spends most of her time — to continue to work with her on the record. She also recorded a song, “Rabba Ru,” with Terakaft, another Tuareg group. In the spirit of the musical exchange, Ahluwalia called the resulting album Aam Zameen: Common Ground. In addition to the three versions of “Mustt Mustt” — the nearly nine-minute original, a shortened version and a slower redux — the album features a cover of the Tinariwen song “Matadjem,” Punjabi folk songs and ghazals heavily influenced by the bluesy Tuareg rhythms and two songs with lyrics penned by Ahluwalia herself, something she had never done before.

“The poetry of ghazals are a very literary form of poetry, so you have to be a bona fide ghazal writer who has spent their entire life studying this form,” she says of her usual approach. “For this album, as I was imagining the music and the Tuareg rhythms that I was entranced by, the ones I wanted to use, I wasn’t able to find anything in the ghazal repertoire that would allow me to mold a melody and invite the Tuaregs to play with it. . . . so it wasn’t that I had this huge desire or need to start writing poetry; it was really a bit of a frustration.”

And while the musicians of Tinariwen and Terakaft won’t be joining Ahluwalia on the tour, audiences can still look forward to hearing their influence. “They won’t be with us in Victoria, but their stamp is all over us.” M

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chelsey Moore’s character Chloe in the upcoming virtual reality game Altdeus: Beyond Chronos. Screengrab
Vancouver Island actress finds success in a virtual world

Black Creek’s Chelsey Moore lends her voice to a new video game set for release in December

Ceramic artist Darrel Hancock working on a clay jug in his home studio in Qualicum Beach. (Submitted photo)
Qualicum Beach potter Darrel Hancock celebrates 40 years in business

‘It’s wonderful to do what you love and make a living at it’

Artist Daniel Cline discusses his sculpture, Harmony Humpbacks, during the June 20 walking tour of Oak Bay’s 2019 ArtsAlive sculptures. Harmony Humpbacks was purchased by Oak Bay as the 2019 people’s choice winner and is permanently installed at the Beach Drive entrance to Willows Park. (Kevin Murdoch Photo)
Influx of donated art a ‘fantastic problem to have,’ says Oak Bay mayor

Oak Bay goes from zero to 10 permanent art pieces since 2015

Dover Bay Secondary School student Victoria Hathfield’s poem <em>Dear Santa</em> appears in<em> Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas is in the Air</em>. (Photo courtesy Darren Lee)
Nanaimo high schooler has first poem published in ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’

Victoria Hathfield’s ‘Dear Santa’ appears in new Christmas-themed edition of anthology series

Nanaimo graphic designer Amy Pye has written and illustrated her first children’s book, <em>G is for Grizzly Bear: A Canadian Alphabet</em>. (Photo courtesy Amy Pye)
Nanaimo graphic designer releases first children’s book

Amy Pye teaches the Canadian alphabet in ‘G is for Grizzly Bear’

The Vancouver Island Symphony’s Back Row Brass Quintet – including trumpeter Mark D’Angelo, tuba player Nick Atkinson and French horn player Karen Hough (from left) – were scheduled to tour the Nanaimo area with Christmas Under the Big Tent, but the concert series has now been cancelled. (Photo courtesy HA Photography)
Symphony brass quintet’s Christmas concert series cancelled

Performances were to happen at venues in Parksville and Lantzville next month

The Sheringham Point Lighthouse, near Shirley. (Contributed - Lee-Ann Ruttan)
New book shines a light on Sheringham Point Lighthouse

Publication examines history, lightkeepers, and volunteer society

Victoria-based guitarist Eric Harper performs at the Port Theatre on Nov. 27. (Photo credit Tatum Duryba)
Classical guitarist to play at the Port Theatre

Eric Harper to play new songs composed during the pandemic

A sample of some of Lou-ann Neel’s jewelry.
Lou-ann Neel wins the Fulmer Award in First Nations Art

Originally from Alert Bay, Neel’s family is steeped in renowned Kwakwaka’wakw artists

I-Hos Gallery manager Ramona Johnson shows some of the paddles available at the retail outlet. Photo by Terry Farrell
I-Hos Gallery celebrates 25 years of promoting First Nation artwork

K’ómoks First Nation-based outlet has art from all over the country

Most Read